According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Peter Enns - Paul's Letter from Rome to the Christian Churches

This 4th century New Testament papyrus contains the first seven verses of Paul's Letter to the Romans.
Beneath the scripture a different author has scribbled in random 
phrases. It has been suggested that this

papyrus may have been a writing exercise. 
New research has identified the owner of this document - a

man named Aurelius Leonides - who was a flax merchant from Eqypt. (article link here)

a long lost letter back to Paul from the Jewish Christians at Rome (that I totally made up)

by Peter Enns
April 21, 2014

If I could go back in time, I’d love to be a fly on the wall to hear how the Jewish believers in the church at Rome heard Paul’s words in his letter to them. (Actually, if I really could go back in time I’d first make a pit stop along the way so I could win the Power Ball Jackpot, but I digress.)

Here we have Paul writing a letter to a church he had neither founded nor even visited and that had a significant Jewish population. And he says things like the following:

  • Gentiles (a.k.a. Greeks) may be sinners, but Jews are no better off in God’s eyes, since they are the ones who have God’s gift of Torah but don’t do what it says.
  • Jews and Gentiles are in the same boat as far as God is concerned because both are enslaved to the power of sin, both equally fall short of God’s glory, and both equally need Jesus, not Torah, to defeat that power.
  • This decentering of Torah to allow Gentiles to become equal partners with Jews in Israel’s story, though appearing to be an unexpected move, has actually been God’s plan all along, beginning with Abraham.
  • Neither circumcision nor maintaining food laws, both of which are commandments to Israel, remain necessary for God’s people–either Jews or Gentiles–in view of Christ’s death and resurrection.
  • Those whose conscience tells them that they need to maintain food laws may continue to do so, but rather than being praised as obeying Scripture, these believers are “weak” in their faith as opposed to those who are “strong,” i.e., those who understand that no foods are unclean.
  • Neither the weak nor the strong are to judge each other, for love and unity among the people of God take priority over whether Israel’s ancient practices continue to be maintained.

- Paul the Apostle


[In response,] I hope one day we find a long lost letter written back to Paul by these Jewish believers. It might go something like this:

Dear Paul,

We read your letter with great interest, and it sparked no little amount of commotion among your fellow Jews.

Have you lost your mind?

We believe in Jesus as you do, and like you we are still scratching our heads a bit about why our Messiah came in humility and weakness, even dying a criminal’s death, and then was raised. You’ve actually helped us quite a bit on those things, especially early on in your letter, and we much appreciate it.

But Paul, you’re Jewish. You’re one of us. Do you really think that the God of our fathers would simply reverse course and expect us to figure out that Jesus the Galilean brought an end to our ancient traditions–especially given how (according to the stories we heard) Jesus himself never said any of what you’re saying here?

We’ve never met though your reputation precedes you. We believe that you are an apostle, but do you really think we should just take your word for it that all that we’ve known is now, at best, an add-on and at worst a hindrance to true faith in the God of our fathers?

And we appreciate how fervently and creatively you cite scripture to support your point, but don’t you think you took your creative readings of scripture a bit too far? Was obedience to Torah really never central to the Lord’s overall plan? We’ve read our scripture cover to cover many times and we can’t find where God even hints at that idea.

Your reading of the story of our father Abraham to marginalize Torah-keeping is way over the top, and your handling of the Psalms and the Prophets to show how the Lord has always “elected” Gentiles is…well…you might as well say that there is really no advantage at all to being a Jew–like we’re one big mistake.

You try to get out of that implication a couple of times in your letter. You sense the dilemma, but frankly you don’t do a very good job of talking your way out of it.

And then toward the end of your letter, when you talk about clean and unclean foods (which seems to be the real point of your letter), you call “weak” those who have the courage and faithfulness amid our pagan culture to maintain God’s holy laws, given by him to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and you call others “strong” for not doing so.

So, what’s up with that?

Paul, we cannot stress this enough: you can’t just pick and choose what parts of scripture you think are worth holding on to.

After all, if everyone did that, there’d be chaos. And where does it end, Paul? Once you start denying one part of scripture, there is no logical reason not to deny anything else. And then what happens to the authority of scripture?

You can’t do this sort of thing with God’s word and you can’t claim that God is telling you to deny what God had told us from ancient days up to know.

We respect you as our brother, Paul, but when you finally pay us a visit, which we do hope will happen in the not-too-distant future, we would like to sit down with you and hear from you more clearly your reasoning process in all of this–exactly how Jesus’s death and resurrection, which we firmly believe, leads you to draw the conclusion that God is turning his back on the very traditions he commanded.

So, those are our main concerns. If in the meantime you decide to write back, could you please work on writing shorter sentences, and maybe not breaking off in mid-sentence to follow another train of thought? That would help us a lot.

We would also appreciate it you used certain key words a bit more consistently–like faith, righteousness, and law. We see some ambiguity here and it’s already caused us no end of debate.

Most sincerely,

Your brothers and sisters in the faith,

fellow children of our father Abraham, according to the flesh

- Your brothers and sisters in Christ

No comments:

Post a Comment